So, you’ve been training MMA for some time and want to become a professional mixed martial arts fighter. You have some mixed martial arts training under your belt, so you’re already off to a good start.
Mixed martial arts is a unique sport that combines elements from various martial arts worldwide. Practitioners can punch, kick, knee, elbow, slam, takedown, and submit opponents during MMA competitions. Fighters like Royce Gracie could get away with being only proficient at one martial art during the sport’s early days, but that no longer works in the new era.
The modern MMA fighter is very comfortable anywhere a fight takes place. That means you must be just as comfortable in all aspects of fighting.
Success as an MMA fighter requires more than fighting ability. You also have to promote and market yourself to ensure arenas are packed whenever you fight. Conor McGregor remains the highest-paid fighter in mixed martial arts, even though he’s not currently the best fighter in his division. McGregor has only had one win since his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2018, yet he remains the biggest draw in the sport.
The Aspiring MMA Fighter’s Handbook
MMA is the fastest-growing sport on the planet, and it’s only a matter of time before it becomes the most popular combat sport. There are a few thousand professional MMA fighters fighting in regional promotions or global organizations like ONE Championship, Bellator, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Less than one percent of all professional MMA fighters make it to one of the leading promotions.
Here are the different steps you have to take when making the transition to pro MMA:
Choose A Base
Mixed martial arts requires you to be familiar with the fundamentals of martial arts like BJJ, Muay Thai, wrestling, and boxing, but your training shouldn’t be restricted to that. The best MMA fighters in the world tend to be exceptionally good at one martial art while being competent in other styles.
For example, UFC legend Anderson Silva was an exceptional striker in his prime, and no one in his division could beat him in that department. His world-class Muay Thai, combined with his high-level BJJ and takedown defense, allowed him to dominate the UFC’s middleweight division for years.
Pick a base early in your journey and dedicate more time to mastering it. Your base should be the martial art that comes easiest for you. The one style everyone tells you how good you are a few weeks into your training and the style that makes you feel most comfortable.
Knowing yourself is essential when picking a base. Go back to your childhood and think about any fights you might have had. What did you do? Did you look to clinch up with your opponent? You might be a natural grappler if that is the case. Likewise, a striking-based martial art might be the best base for you in you naturally look to strike when you find yourself in an altercation.
Get At Least 2,500 Training Hours
It takes longer than 2,500 hours to master any martial art. For example, you’ll need about 5,000 to 10,000 hours to get a black belt in BJJ. 2,500 represents the minimum experience you should have before getting inside a cage. You can pick up that much experience in about two and a half years if you train four hours per day, five days per week.
Of course, we all learn at different paces, so gifted martial artists can pick up that amount of experience in less time.
Signing up for local martial arts tournaments helps to build competitive experience. You get to perform in front of a crowd and deal with many of the issues MMA fighters deal with, like pre-fight jitters. You also get chances to practice cutting weight and grow accustomed to performing under pressure.
Each tournament you sign up for will pay dividends when you finally step inside a cage. The feelings you have to deal with leading up to and during your MMA fight will be familiar, allowing you to compete at a higher level.
Knowing how to market yourself is essential in mixed martial arts. Fortunately for you, social media has made it a lot easier to connect with people all over the world. Don’t wait until you’re a professional fighter to start marketing yourself. Start a vlog or blog and document your journey. The fans you pick up along the way will stick with you when you become a pro fighter. Promoters are also more likely to give you lucrative contracts when they know you have enough fan support to put people in seats.
To make things even better, most social media networks allow you to monetize your following with ads, so it can become an additional source of income.
Become A Lifelong Student
Reaching the top of professional mixed martial arts requires you to consistently stay ahead of the curve. That means you should always be open to learning new things. Fight tactics are constantly evolving, and new techniques are regularly introduced.
For example, calf kicks were not that common a decade ago, but it seems like everyone is throwing them now due to how effective they have been. Never stop learning regardless of how skilled you are.
Find A Manager/Fight Camp
You’ll need to find a gym that caters to pro MMA fighters, preferably one with a fight team like Evolve MMA. Training with pro MMA fighters will give you a clearer idea of your strengths and weaknesses. It also allows you to assess how professionals approach their training, nutrition, and mental fitness heading into their fights.
Some fight teams also provide athletes with managers who help them secure fight contracts, or you can get one yourself. A manager serves an important role, helping to get fights that are favorable for your progression, increasing your exposure, and ensuring you’re getting fair compensation for your fights.
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